Growing up, pineapple upside down cake was my mother’s specialty. Friends asked for it for their birthdays, it appeared at special family occasions, and showed up to at least one yearly bbq, if not more. Suffice it say the pineapple upside down cake was a staple fixture in my childhood.
So when it came to developing a great dessert in honor of my father, to be honest, it was the first dessert I could think of. I wanted to make it a bit more grown up by creating individual versions (and upping the pineapple to cake ratio) and substituting tangy pickled cherries for the traditional sweet maraschino cherries.
The history of pineapple upside down cakes in the U.S. is pretty interesting in that it all started with a recipe contest. Canned pineapple was introduced to the country in 1903 , and in 1925, Dole Foods (then Hawaiian Pineapple Company) introduced an ad campaign that featured canned pineapple recipes in popular woman’s magazines, turning this once strange and exotic fruit into a pantry staple. This campaign also showcased a recipe contest that received over 60,000 entries, 2,500 of which were for pineapple upside down cake.
The winning recipe was for pineapple upside down cake, and it featured a method commonly used in Southern dessert recipes, where butter and sugar are melted into the pan, and then topped with fruit and batter before being baked. Alton Brown thinks this method stemmed from pan-baked corn bread recipes that called for melting butter in a heated skillet before pouring in the batter.
I decided to melt the butter and sugar in a pan and pour it into the baking tins, just because they were so tiny, I didn’t really want to heat them up on the stove. The next step was layering the melted mixture into pans, then topping with a pineapple slice and a pickled cherry.
The batter goes together pretty simply in a basic muffin mixing method, meaning you mix the dry together, the wet together, then the wet and dry together only until the batter barely comes together. Too much stirring will equal a tough cake. I poured it on top of the filled tart pans, just below the top of the pans.
The cakes took around 25 minutes to bake. Some of the caramel did spill out of the pans, since they were tart pans with removable bottoms, but it did not hurt the end product one bit. Just be sure to let the cakes cool a bit before turning them over, or you will burn yourself.
Recipe: Mini Grown Up Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
Summary: This recipe was inspired by an Alton Brown recipe
- 2/3 stick butter
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 6 slices of canned pineapple in heavy syrup
- 6 pickled cherries+
- 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice
- 2/3 cup flour
- 2/3 teaspoon baking powder
- sprinkle of salt
- 2 eggs
- 3.5 tablespoons of pineapple juice
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Set 6 mini tart pans on a half sheet pan. Take a cast iron skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until melted, which may take a few minutes.
- Pour the caramel equally into the 6 mini tart pans. Top each pan with one slice of pineapple and one pickled cherry in the center.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then add in the pineapple juice. Stir in the flour mixture until it is just combined, but not smooth.
- Pour the batter equally over the 6 mini tart pans. Careful not to let the batter go over the sides of the tart.
- Bake tarts at 350 F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 15-20 minutes before placing a plate on top of one of the tart pans and flipping it upside down to reveal the cake. Do this part slowly and with plenty of towels around you.
- Eat the cake and store leftovers in an airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days.
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